Dec 18, 2018
News
A Salvador Dalí “Lobster Telephone” was acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland.
Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Lobster Telephone, 1938, painted plaster and Bakelite telephone, purchased by the Henry and Sula Walton Fund, with assistance from the Art Fund, 2018. Courtesy the National Galleries of Scotland.

Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Lobster Telephone, 1938, painted plaster and Bakelite telephone, purchased by the Henry and Sula Walton Fund, with assistance from the Art Fund, 2018. Courtesy the National Galleries of Scotland.

The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) are ringing in the holiday season with the help of their latest acquisition, Salvador Dalí’s famous Lobster Telephone (1938). The Surrealist sculpture, of which Dalí made 11 for one of his most devoted patrons, Edward James, is one of seven that were painted white (the other four were painted red).

While many of the crustacean calling devices have long been in museum collections (the Tate has a red one on a black base), this version from the Edward James Foundation recently came up for sale at Christie’s, where it surpassed its £250,000 ($315,000) pre-sale estimate to fetch £845,000 ($1.1 million) from a foreign collector. Arts minister Michael Ellis placed an export bar on the work in hopes of finding a UK institution that could match the sale price and keep the work in Britain. The NGS managed to raise £853,000 to acquire the Lobster Telephone, with £753,000 ($949,000) from the Henry and Sula Walton Fund and another £100,000 ($126,000) from the Art Fund.

In a statement, Simon Groom, the director of modern and contemporary art at the NGS, said:

This major acquisition cements our position as one of the world’s greatest collections of Surrealist art. Object sculptures—where the artist takes an existing, manufactured object and transforms it with a slight addition or alteration—were popular among the Surrealists, but are now incredibly rare. They turned convention upside-down, saying that anything could be art, and that art and life were not separate. Dalí created something incredibly rich, imaginative and funny with the most economical of means. Before this acquisition we had nothing of this kind.

Indeed, the NGS are on a roll with their Lobster Telephone acquisition. Over the summer, it bolstered their Surrealist holdings by acquiringLeonora Carrington’s enigmatic portrait of Max Ernst.

Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Lobster Telephone, 1938, painted plaster and Bakelite telephone, purchased by the Henry and Sula Walton Fund, with assistance from the Art Fund, 2018. Photo © National Galleries of Scotland, Greg Macvean.

Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Lobster Telephone, 1938, painted plaster and Bakelite telephone, purchased by the Henry and Sula Walton Fund, with assistance from the Art Fund, 2018. Photo © National Galleries of Scotland, Greg Macvean.